Posted: Thursday, December 22, 2016
This is the Fantasy Football Nerd's look at the best and worst matchups for Week 16 of the 2016 NFL season. Decisions are based upon the FFN rankings and matchup analysis. Given the known conditions, these matchups are the ones to watch and/or avoid.
Please Note: This list does not generally include the elite players that you are going to start regardless of matchup. You don't need us to tell you to start Aaron Rodgers, Rob Gronkowski, or Antonio Brown. Instead, we take a look at other players on your team that we believe either have great matchups or should be avoided for multiple reasons. Factors like opposing defense, performance trending, and peer comparisons may influence our decisions.
Start 'em Cam Newton (CAR, QB)
With multiple sub-15 point games, the 2016 version of Cam Newton hasn't been the same guy as the 2015 version for fantasy owners, but don't let that stop you from plugging him into your championship lineups. Even with a sore shoulder, Cam should shine against the Falcons who give up the 3rd-most yards through the air and the most fantasy points to QBs.
Start 'em Jameis Winston (TB, QB)
We expect Jameis Winston to bounce back nicely after only scoring 9 fantasy points when he last faced the Saints in Week 14. New Orleans gives up the 2nd-most yards through the air and has given up an average of 17 fantasy points every week to QBs this year. He's ranked 5th this week on FFN in what should be a plus matchup.
Start 'em Ben Roethlisberger (PIT, QB)
Even though Ben Roethlisberger is ranked outside the Top 12 this week (#15), he has the ability to put up QB1-type numbers against Baltimore. The Ravens have allowed the 10th-fewest passing yards, but Big Ben is a better play at home and he put up 19 fantasy points against them in Week 9. He has the potential to shine this week.
Start 'em Todd Gurley (LA, RB)
In most leagues, Todd Gurley was drafted in the first round, and by most accounts, he has been a bust this year. Keep him in your lineup as this is the week that he'll finally make you happy. Nobody gives up more yards on the ground than the Niners this year, and over the last three weeks, Devonta Freeman, Bilal Powell, and Jordan Howard each put up 30 fantasy points against them.
Start 'em Frank Gore (IND, RB)
Don't get fancy this week - stick to what got you here. Ranked 20th this week, Frank Gore should continue to be a solid RB2 for you against a Raiders defensive front that has given up the 7th-most rushing yards per game. The Colts have played the Ground 'N Pound game with him, and minus the vultured TDs from Turbin, Gore has been solid.
Start 'em Jay Ajayi (MIA, RB)
It's difficult to throw on Buffalo, but you can certainly run on them as Le'Veon Bell did in his record-setting 50-point Week 14 routing. Latavius Murray put up 22+ fantasy points the week prior, and Jay Ajayi put up 27+ fantasy points against them in Week 7. Look for Ajayi to be a borderline RB1 this week.
Start 'em Julian Edelman (NE, WR)
We love all the New England receivers this week. Julian Edelman should do nicely but should be the equivalent of gold in PPR formats. The last time he faced the Jets in Week 12, he put up 8 for 83 and his targets have only gone up since then. Expect Brady to continue to look Edelman's way often in this matchup.
Start 'em Brandin Cooks (NO, WR)
There's no doubt that Brandin Cooks has speed. Arizona saw that on full display last week as he tallied an incredible 7 for 186 and 2 scores. Now, he's not going to repeat that performance against Tampa Bay, but his #12 ranking this week makes him a borderline WR1.
Start 'em Emmanuel Sanders (DEN, WR)
Both Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas are ranked inside the Top 12 this week and we wouldn't hesitate starting either one. The last time the Broncos faced Kansas City in Week 12, Sanders put up a very solid 22.2 fantasy points (29.2 PPR). After a sub-par day last week, expect Sanders to deliver a championship under your Christmas tree.
Start 'em Antonio Gates (SD, TE)
With a disappointing 1 catch for 11 yards, Gates played second fiddle to Hunter Henry last week. The Chargers would like to see Gates pass Tony Gonzalez's TE touchdown record, and with 2 weeks and 3 touchdowns to go (2 scores to tie it), we expect Rivers to feed Gates in the endzone. Cleveland has given up 14.5 fantasy points (20.5 PPR) in #1 TEs the last two weeks.
Start 'em Martellus Bennett (NE, TE)
The bar isn't very high for Martellus Bennett to surpass his ugly Week 12 performance against the Jets. Since that matchup the Jets have given up an average of 20 fantasy points to both Dion Sims and Dwayne Allen. Tom Brady should be able to pick apart New York, and even though Bennett hasn't been the most reliable TE in fantasy this year, he has strong potential to finish near his #11 ranking this week.
Start 'em Green Bay Packers (GB, DEF)
If you're still streaming defenses in Week 16, look no further than Green Bay. The Pack is ranked 10th among DSTs this week on FFN facing a Vikings offense that has seemingly run out of fuel. Minnesota rushers...combined...are still 100+ yards away from a 1,000 yard season. Without a running game, they will have to lean on their passing game which will have to go through new Pro-Bowler Ha Ha Clinton Dix. Green Bay's defense put up double digit fantasy points against them in their first matchup and it's reasonable to think that they can do it again.
Start 'em Sebastian Janikowski (OAK, K)
Our #1-ranked kicker this week is fantasy stalwart Sebastian Janikowski facing an Indy defense that has allowed double-digit fantasy production six times this year. He has averaged 8.6 fantasy points each week and has been on fire since Oakland's bye in Week 10. Keep him locked into your lineup.
Sit 'em Joe Flacco (BAL, QB)
Only one QB has surpassed 20 fantasy points against Pittsburgh this year and it wasn't Joe Flacco. In fact, Flacco put up just 12.84 fantasy points in Week 9. Since then, QBs have averaged just 14 fantasy points. This will make him a tough start in your championship game.
Sit 'em Robert Griffin III (CLE, QB)
The spark that everyone hoped RGIII would bring to the Browns has been nothing more than a fizzle. He has failed to throw for more than 200 yards in his three games back and the fantasy relevance of the Browns' players have suffered. In the last three weeks, the Chargers have allowed an average of just 12 fantasy points. Sure, Griffin will get some rushing yards, but it won't be enough to win you a championship.
Sit 'em Andy Dalton (CIN, QB)
Andy Dalton will have A.J. Green back, but with the Bengals officially eliminated from the playoffs, there's not much to play for. Ranked 19th this week, Dalton will be facing Houston's 2nd-ranked pass defense. Over the last three weeks, Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, and Blake Bortles averaged just 13 fantasy points. Too risky.
Sit 'em Adrian Peterson (MIN, RB)UPDATE: Peterson has been ruled INACTIVE.
One of the greatest running backs in modern history should not be one of your running backs this week. A lot of folks picked him off the waiver wire only to be disappointed. Adrian Peterson played only 21% of the snaps last week and has not committed yet to playing against Green Bay's 10th-ranked rush defense yet. With groin and knee injuries slowing him down, he's best left on your fantasy bench.
Sit 'em Devontae Booker (DEN, RB)
Comparing depth charts to this week's rankings finds Devontae Booker sticking out like a sore thumb all the way down the list at #41. Kansas City gives up the the 5th-most yards on the ground, but with Justin Forsett (ranked 30th) increasingly eating into his touches, Booker will have his work cut out for him to try and repeat the 11 fantasy points he put up against them in Week 12.
Sit 'em Alshon Jeffery (CHI, WR)
Alshon Jeffery wasn't a part of the passing game against Green Bay last week really until the fourth quarter, but once he got started, he put up 6 for 89 and a score. Assuming that the Bears don't wait that long to target him, his matchup will be difficult as Josh Norman is expected to shadow him all day. Jeffery could still be a nice flex play for you though.
Sit 'em Terrelle Pryor (CLE, WR)
The return of RGIII has spelled the end of fantasy relevancy for Terrelle Pryor. Combine that with a finger injury (torn ligament) and even a juicy matchup with the Chargers is not attractive enough to instill any sort of confidence in Pryor. He's ranked 41st among WRs this week putting him outside WR3 territory.
Sit 'em Brandon Marshall (NYJ, WR)
We're not interested in starting any Jets receivers not named Robby Anderson this week. That means that fantasy-staple Brandon Marshall is off the radar against the Patriots. In fact, his #45 ranking this week puts him out of contention for starting consideration. He always has the potential to turn in a solid day, but the risk is too great given that this is the last fantasy game of the year.
Sit 'em Jordan Reed (WAS, TE)
15...that's not the number of rounds that we expect WR-turned-boxer Jordan Reed to go, but rather his ranking this week on FFN. Jordan Reed is a big name among tight ends, and if you have him, you're probably going to be starting him regardless of where we put him. With a banged up shoulder and a matchup against Chicago's 6th-ranked pass defense, Reed's sleigh will need more than reindeer to deliver a fantasy championship.
Sit 'em Jared Cook (GB, TE)
After putting up a solid day last week (6 for 85), we expect Jared Cook to regress this week against Minnesota's 3rd-ranked pass defense. No TE has scored double digits in standard scoring against the Vikings this year, and Cook's inconsistencies can't be overlooked in the most important fantasy game of the year.
Sit 'em Carolina Panthers (CAR, DEF)
The Carolina Panthers have indicated that they plan to play it safe with Luke Kuechly. The Panthers defense is a shell of itself since he went out with a concussion. Carolina is ranked 27th this week against an Atlanta offense that can hit them hard both on the ground and through the air.
Sit 'em Graham Gano (CAR, K)
The Atlanta defense has been pretty solid this year. Over the last month, they have allowed kickers to put up just 3.25 fantasy points against them. That's not the kind of stat that you want to see when setting your lineup for the last time. Graham Gano is ranked 17th this week putting him outside the startable range.